By Will Winch, Solicitor, Mishcon de Reya

This Friday, the landmark Bribery Act 2010 will come into force. While some have praised the boost to competitiveness that the new legislation will bring to the UK’s businesses, others are concerned by the disruption it could bring to smaller businesses unprepared for the change.

Will Winch, a solicitor at commercial law firm, Mischon de Reya discusses the Bribery Act with Fresh Business Thinking, offering businesses his top 10 tips to prepare for the changes.

1. Assess the risk

Identify the business activities where the Bribery Act might be relevant as well assessing which key employees and business partners could be at risk.

2. Formulate a plan

Work out what needs to be done about the risks identified in the assessment. It may be that you already have everything in place, and don't need to do anything. However, if you do not already have an anti bribery policy, think about putting one in place. Also think about whether you need to include something in employment contracts which entitles you to dismiss if someone commits a criminal offence, or whether a gift register is necessary. Make sure the plan is practicable and proportionate.

3. Seek buy in

Ensure senior management buy into and commit to any anti corruption measures and lead by example to the rest of the organisation — their behaviour will influence the general culture of the organisation. This needs to be a 'top down' solution.

4. Communicate the policy

If you have a policy, or put one in place, check that employees, suppliers, service users and customers know about it. Check that your policy is clearly reflected in staff handbooks, employee contracts or service level agreements.

5. Training

Put in place appropriate induction and training programmes so that people are aware of and understand your policy.

6. Give assurances

Make sure your business has effective whistleblowing procedures to safeguard anyone who wishes to report concerns about the Bribery Act.

7. Be careful about Corporate Hospitality

Be careful about corporate hospitality. Offering a client reasonable and proportionate corporate hospitality will not constitute an offence. However, an expensive dinner given to a valued client the night before a decision is taken as to whether to extend or grant a contract could be seen as giving a bribe. Consider keeping a record of any lavish hospitality and of gifts given or received.

8. Third parties

Ensure that you are protected in your dealings with third parties. Find out more about the person with whom you are planning on doing business. Are they a risk? Make sure that you can get out of any contract with a third party if they look like they are involved in corruption. Revisit existing contracts and ensure new contracts make compliance with the Bribery Act mandatory.

9. Foreign government officials

Remember that you need to take extra care when dealing with foreign government officials. Remember also that foreign government officials are not just ministers, policemen and planning officers. They will also include doctors in state run hospitals and those responsible for sovereign wealth.

10. If in doubt…

If you are unsure whether or not you are committing an offence always check with your employer or talk to a legal expert.

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